Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Kazakhstan Open 2016 (Challenge Tour)

All golfing eyes are on Hazeltine this week as the USA try to stop the European juggernaut winning the Ryder Cup for the 4th successive time but in the background, many aspiring tour players are slogging it out in Lisbon, Portugal and Hardelot, France in a bid to get through to the 2nd Qualifying Stage of Tour Qualifying. Others are trying to maximize points on the Challenge Tour by showing up at the biggest event in the season schedule to be played at the Zhailjau Gold Resort in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Berd Ritthammer returns to Challenge Tour action having mixed it with the big boys at The European Open & KLM Open in recent weeks and the Race to Oman leader will try to capitalize on recent good form by extending his 693 point lead over Jordan Smith here as 72,000 points go on offer. An interesting stat from the Europeantour website states that all previous eleven winners of this event have gone on to secure their cards for the European Tour. Four of those winners actually won the season long order of merit. There's your incentive this week lads!

The Course

The Zhailjau GC will offer up a sort of birdie-fest this week. The course was designed by the late Arnold Palmer and is a tree lined course with ample room off the tee. The bigger hitters and those that contend in birdiefests are sure to be prominent over the par-72, 7100 yard course this week. The course has five par-5s. Sam Hutsby won last time here in 2014 with a -19 score, good enough to beat Bjeung-Hun An and Andrew Johnston who feature regularly on the main tours these days, and a certain Matt Fitzpatrick who makes his Ryder Cup debut this week back in T8th. In other words, many of the rising stars in Europe have been here and can approach the week knowing that if they can find their game and put in a solid four rounds, the rewards could be significant. With this in mind, my shortlist couldn't ignore most of the market leaders not could it dismiss those that have form here on the course.

The Shortlist

As previously mentioned, Bernd Ritthammer arrives as the R2O leader having won at Mt Wolseley last month. He's since played the European Open in Bad Griesbach where he played all four rounds. Indeed he's only missed one cut in four ET starts this season. Confidence will be high and he looks decent value to me @ 29.00. My shortlist shows that the German has posted 8 TOP20s from his 15 starts on the Challenge Tour this year of which 6 are TOP10. Winner last time out, he can keep the momentum going and make it 12 winners to secure their European Tour card for 2017.

Ryan Fox, though is the player I fancy most here this week. Son of All Black legend, Grant, the Aucklander can use his length to great advantage here and secure his card. From only 8 starts on tour, the kiwi has amassed a win in Galgorm Castle, with a winning -19 total that included a closing 62, as well as another 6 TOP20s of which 4 of those were TOP10s. I'm surprised to see the 18/1 on offer here for him to win as I would have made him favourite.

Alvaro Velasco won on this course back in 2010 and proved his fondness for the course with a follow-up 4th two years ago. The Spaniard hasn't had the best season to date with just 1 TOP20 from his 16 starts, that being a win out of the blue in France just three weeks ago. He won on the back of 7 successive missed cuts (only 4/14 this season). That win though, probably does back up the belief that players can gain confidence ahead of either defending a title or visiting a tournament that they particularly like. Time and time again we've seen players hit form all of a sudden just 1-2 weeks ahead of a tourney that they love. Whether its due to an increase in their practice regime or its just down to the subconscious clearing out bad thoughts and overpowering the brain with positive thoughts, that's up for discussion, but we can't really ignore Alvaro's chances here given that he's won from nowhere seemingly just three weeks before he heads off to Kazakhstan where he secured European Tour cards in the past. He represents decent value here @ 66/1 and 9/1 for a TOP10.

Lastly, I was tempted to get onside with the two Irish lads, Selfridge & Phelan here but results have been a bit sporadic and had they showed up better in Carlow last time, especially the latter, I'd have had an interest. I wouldn't be surprised to see either make a push for TOP15 in the R2O over the next couple of tournaments but they need to start putting four rounds together and this is the week to strike

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The European Open - Bad Griesbach

The European Open returns to Bad Griesbach and it will be the last event in Europe before The Ryder Cup so it comes as no surprise to see two European Ryder Cup team mates, Thomas Pieters and Martin Kaymer head the betting. What may be a bit surprising is that it's the Belgian that goes into the tournament as favourite to win ahead of two-time Major and local hero, Martin Kaymer! Pieters returns this week having had to pull out of the KLM Open a couple weeks ago due a bee sting and with a wet course in play this week his length could well be a factor come Sunday afternoon.

The Course

The European Open returned to the schedule twelve months ago here at Bad Griesbach having been dropped from the schedule since it was last contested at the London GC in 2009 and 2008. It did have a home at the K Club in the preceding ten years. Thongchai Jaidee won here last year with a -17 score and it looks like those with a strong tee to green game should do best here. "The Beckenbauer" course, one of six 18-hole courses at the resort is a 7100 yards,par-71 course with five par-3s. Stats from last year suggest those that can get it down there and actually hole some putts will do well. With water in abundance, accuracy is important but with recent downpours the course should play soft and long although the weather forecast is good for the tournament. I would favour Pieters over Kaymer based on the conditions.

The Shortlist

Twelve players made it to my final shortlist this week but truth be told it was a struggle to get it down from 24. Some of those omitted at the final cull included Kaymer himself, Hend,Bland, Karlberg, Stone, Campillo, Hebert, Morrison, Otaegui, Green, and Paul Dunne.

Thomas Pieters is becoming one of Europe's stars and hes been in fantastic form this summer having won in Denmark the week after coming 2nd in the Czech Republic. He also finished 4th in Rio. Four TOP10s in his 16 starts this season the Belgian quite rightly got the final call up by Darren Clarke to play in this years Ryder Cup, possibly over Russell Knox. He can warm up for his debut next week with a solid showing here but at the price he can be left out of our staking plan. Likewise for Bernd Wiesberger, who should have a good week, he's at 16s which  I think is way too short to be confident in expecting a victory here. Instead I'll stick with Tommy Fleetwood again @ 34.00. Tommy produced the TOP10 requested of him last week and it was very encouraging to see a final round score produced to bring him into the week here. He must be buoyed by the past few weeks as he's started to get involved on twitter again! I wouldn't back him at less than 34.00 though,but he's a contender here for sure.

Ricardo Gouveia won on this course on the Challenge Tour a couple of seasons ago and he may just respond to playing it again here this week.From his 19 starts this season, the Portuguese player has produced 4 TOP20s and he can grab another here. He may lack a little off the tee  though so strong iron play will be called for if he is to get into contention and put the two missed cuts behind him from Holland & Italy recently.

Peter Uihlein suffered a wrist injury earlier in the season and returned to action at the Paul Lawrie Matchplay where he lost his opening round match at the 2nd extra hole to Oliver Fisher, who eventually won the 3rd place play-off. Uihlein missed the cut last week despite solid 69-70 rounds so the selection this week is taken in the hope that he's fully fit and ready to add to his 3 TOP10s from his previous 11 starts this season. The American certainly has the length for The Beckenbauer and can boast solid putting stats.At 140.00 on the exchanges he's worth chancing but perhaps he is a better speculation within the TOP20 market @ 5.50

I was quite tempted by the 70.00 on offer for Anirban Lahiri but recent form suggests he should be watched this week rather than be backed. Instead, I'm going in again on Ross Fisher @ 51.00. Ross hasn't had the best of seasons again this year and its been awhile since he last won.Indeed, he is a former winner of this event having won at the London GC in 2008. Ross averages just under 300 yds off the tee and is accurate in doing so and ranks very highly for GIR. He lets it all down on the dancefloor though. Ross is 15/18 this season with 4 TOP20s and was 5th here twelve months ago having arrived on the back of 3 straight missed cuts! He was ranked TOP10 that week in the Europeantour "Putts per Round" category. That result backs up his obvious liking for playing in this part of the world having produced 6 TOP20s from 9 BMW International Opens. There is plenty of talent within Ross Fisher and his 5 European Tour victories probably don't account for that ability. This is a player that defeated Anthony Kim in the 2009 World Matchplay Final, the same year that he lead all 4 Majors at one point. Its been awhile since the Englishman asserted himself like he did back then but perhaps he can take some inspiration from Francesco Molinari's win last week in that they both are coached by Denis Pugh. Pugh who resides in Munich should have his team well catered for this week, let's hope they don't indulge in the wiessbier too much during Oktoberfest.


1.00 pts win T. Fleetwood @ 34.00
0.25 pts win R. Gouveia @ 150.00
0.25 pts win P.Uihlein @ 140.00
1.00 pts win R. Fisher @ 51.00
1.50 pts TOP20 R. Gouveia @ 6.50
2.00 pts TOP20 P. Uihlein @ 5.50
2.00 pts TOP10 R. Fisher @ 6.50